Coach John Turner made just one change to his starting line-up from last week when he brought in Michael Turnbull for Justin Pasfield in goal. Either way Turner is blessed with an abundance of talent and with the finals approaching, Turner’s decision is to give both players the chance at showing their impressive skills is keeping the two goalkeepers fresh and in focus for the finals campaign ahead.
For Sydney United it was a desperate game for them to stay in touch with the Top-Five and keep the advancing A.P.I.A.-Leichhardt Tigers at bay who are hot on their heels, trailing on the table by just 2 competition points, with just two more rounds to play following Saturday’s result.
The match started at a frantic pace with both teams proving why they have themselves placed in the race for the 2008 Premiership title. Wollongong were offered the first chance of the match after just 6? minutes when a loose ball fell to Dez Giraldi on the edge of the area and his shot was fired straight at the Sydney United goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic. During the first few stages of the match United played with just 10-men with midfielder Ivo Bosnar off the field receiving treatment for a facial wound that took some time to stop bleeding, following an accidental clash with an unsighted Wolves player in the first few minutes of the match.
On the quarter of an hour mark, the Wolves were attacking the United goal with Price down the left midfield and his pin-point cross to the far post found the ever present Matt Bailey on the boil and his half volley on goal found the side netting but it sounded a stern warning to the United defence.
Sydney United were keeping the Wolves at bay though with some desperate defence that was testament to their desire to stay in the finals race and a Milan Bosnar desperate interception in the 22? minute thwarted the Wolves attack following some brilliant passing exchanges between Price, Prenzoski and Bailey for the Wolves.
Moments later it was that long throw from Michael Hawrysiuk who spelt danger for United. His throw-in found Prenzoski again on the charge only for his shot to spray across the face of the Sydney United goalmouth and safely past the sliding Giraldi to the delight of the United’s defensive line.
The next 10? minutes saw United pressure the Wolves goalmouth and the first real chance fell for former Wolves NSL championship winning player from 99/00, Mark Robertson, who?s shot from the edge of the area just flew inches over the bar of Michael Turnbull’s goal.
United pressured the Wolves area and a beautifully lobbed cross into the area by Todd Brodie forced the ever present Danial Cummins for Wollongong to head the ball away to safety out of the busy goal area. Minutes later it was United with a chance again with Joe Moric lobbing a pass onto the head of Luka Glavas, who was lively for United but his header at goal was easily handled by the confident Turnbull.
The turning point early in the match came in the 36? minute when a dynamic run by Glavas after a lost ball by Steve Hayes at the back for Wollongong FC saw Glavas collect and run one-on-one with the advancing Turnbull but the keeper was solid in his block and saved for Wollongong at point-blank range.
Turnbull’s save turned into attack for Wollongong FC when the ball found Hayes keen to wipe out his previous discretion and he did it with honours when his perfectly timed through-ball sent the speedy Prenzoski one-on-one with Janjetovic, and the cool Prenzoski chipped the advancing goalkeeper and sent the home crowd into raptures, 1-0 to Wollongong.
Sydney United pressed forward looking for the equaliser just minutes later and again it was Glavas who looked lively in-front of goal and the most likely to break the deadlock but for some timely defence from Cummins who again was ?johnny on the spot? in saving his team for another perfectly timed challenge inside his area with some brave defending.
Just a minute out from the half-time break it was 2-0 to Wollongong following a good break down the right from Bailey who fired a shot that went dangerously across the face of goal. The Sydney United defence couldn’t stop the desperate lunge by Balla Conde into the path of the dangerous shot, and he forced the ball over the line and into the empty net.
The second-half started with caution for both sides and it was Sydney United who pressed for the first chance of the half following another dangerous cross into the area by Brodie. This time though, his cross was thwarted by the swift running Price who pounced on the header to put it out to safety for the Wolves.
Not to be outdone, the Wolves advanced up the field just a minute later searching for their third goal and the lively Prenzoski was again creating havoc inside the final third. It was his pass out to Bailey, this time out on the left, who then turned back inside to Giraldi but the striker?s shot was saved and forced over the byline by the United defence. The ensuing corner by Tynan Diaz was forced away from Janjetovic, who had to parry away the dangerous curling cross.
The Wolves sealed their win in the 60? minute in memorable fashion when a timely through ball by Giraldi found the flying Bailey again down the left and his speedy run at goal looked like he was going to turn and lay-off a pass to the oncoming support but instead his side footed shot from the edge of the area beat everyone and nestled in the bottom right corner of the United net.
Despite being down 3-0, Sydney United never gave up and they had their chances to put some numbers on their half of the scoreboard in the 71? minute when a linking run by Robertson and half-time substitute Elsid Barkhousir sent the latter one-on-one with Turnbull. Barkhousir?s chipped effort over the advancing Turnbull was well blocked by the shot-stopper.
The determined United pressed more and more into the Wolves defence and it was Glavas again who twice forced desperate defence firstly by Hayes and then a certain goal saver by Ben Blake to block with a sliding tackle just inches in-front of goal.
With just ten minutes remaining on the clock it was Turnbull again who impressed for Wollongong, when a shot from Barkhousir for United looked goal bound into the top right corner of the net but his edge of the area shot forced the fully outstretched Turnbull to push the ball past the left hand post and away for a corner. Turnbull was on the spot again from the corner when he fisted away the dangerous corner to safety for his team.
The final minutes saw the Wolves trying to improve their goal difference with the now equal first placed Sutherland Sharks and it was Prenzoski who again found space this time down the right side and he managed to get a shot off on goal only to hit the side netting. In the final minute of play the last real chance of the game was given to Hawrysiuk for Wollongong, but his timely header found the Sydney United crossbar and United managed to clear the scrambling Wolves pack eager to increase their tally.
The full-time whistle sounded 2? minutes into stoppage time to the delight of the home crowd and the Wolves now have a meeting with Marconi next weekend, again in Wollongong, whilst Sydney United have it all to play for with a must win clash against Manly United FC.
Wollongong FC coach John Turner commented after the match:
?We have a very special team of players; each and every one of them are playing for each other week in and week out. We knew this competition was like a horse race and right now we are timing our run to perfection and I am confident the boys want to finish this race in first place?.
Turner mentioned how impressed he was with new season recruit Matt Bailey, who joined the club at the start of the season from the local Illawarra Football Association League side Bulli:
?This boy has really come of age in this league and his goal tonight would not look out of place in a European highlight’s reel,? he said.
Once again it was a 5-star performance from Wollongong FC striker Ilija Prenzoski, who in his current form would not look out of place in an A-League starting line-up despite constant rumours claiming he is returning back to the Illawarra local league with Dandaloo FC at the completion of his contractual commitments with the Wolves. Prenzoski has continued on from his impressive form with Dandaloo FC in 2007 where he was the I.F.A. League’s leading goalscorer and his current form should have the pundits looking beyond state league for his 2009 season.
Wollongong FC 3 (Ilija Prenzoski 37′, Balla Conde 44′, Matt Bailey 60′)
Sydney United 0
Venue: John Crehan Park, CRINGILA
Referee: Atila Stibinger
Assistant Referees: Nik Backo, Brett Woodford
Fourth Official: Brandon Johansen
Wollongong FC: 20.Michael TURNBULL; 5. Steve HAYES, 6. Ilija PRENZOSKI (15. Samet KAYNAK 88′), 7. Michael HAWRYSIUK, 9. Dez GIRALDI (8. Mitchell LONG 83′), 10. Balla CONDE (2. Alfredo ESTEVES 73′), 12. Chris PRICE, 13. Tynan DIAZ, 14. Danial CUMMINS, 17. Ben BLAKE (C), 19. Matt BAILEY
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Justin PASFIELD (GK)
Yellow Cards: 5. Steve HAYES 81′, 19. Matt BAILEY 90′
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney United: 1. Vedran JANJETOVIC; 3. Josip MORIC, 4. Milan BOSNAR, 5. Damon COLLINA (37. Dennis CUTURA 75′), 6. Joseph VRKIC, 7. Todd BRODIE, 10. Mark ROBERTSON, 11. Luka GLAVAS, 15. Chris BOYLE (19. Mitchel THOMPSON 66′), 21. Saso TRAJCEVSKI (16. Elsid BARKHOUSIR 45′), 23. Ivo BOSNAR
Substitutes Not Used: 50. Steve MINOVSKI (GK), 9. Christian DE SOARES
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
3 ? Illija PRENZOSKI (WFC)
2 ? Danial CUMMINS (WFC)
1 ? Balla CONDE (WFC)
-By Andrew Byron